Armchair auditing in Hull

October 18, 2011 4:09 PM

Transparency in government spending is something we have been campaigning about for many years. Councils publishing their spending above £500 was a major policy victory for us, but it does have to be said that looking through hundreds of pages of council spending on your computer could be made easier.

A new website has just been launched that does just that for residents in Hull. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can find spending details in areas that most interest you. This makes the job of an armchair auditor much easier. Let me give you two practical examples. 

In April, I wrote about the demise of 'Hull in Print' - Hull City Council's newspaper. Using this website, in under a minute I found out that from March to August, taxpayers funded this newspaper by £45,048.

With a few clicks of a mouse, I found out that from 1 March - 31 August this year, the council made a total of 2014 payments totalling £1,197,927 in council tax computer refunds. Why this is, I don't know, but it's very easy for me to send a freedom of information request to find out. Without this website, it would have been much more difficult to spot this information, never mind collate all the figures.

The website has nothing to do with Hull City Council, although the council must be congratulated for publishing all spending online - not just spending above £500. It has been created by a member of the public called Adam Jennison. Adam is to be congratulated for doing this. It is a valuable tool for taxpayers who can easily find out how their money is spent. It is also useful for the council itself, as well as local businesses who may be able to spot an opening in the market and deliver services at a better rate.

As this program can be adapted for use across the country, all councils can be covered. If this was so, all of us would be in a better position to scrutinise them more effectively.Transparency in government spending is something we have been campaigning about for many years. Councils publishing their spending above £500 was a major policy victory for us, but it does have to be said that looking through hundreds of pages of council spending on your computer could be made easier.

A new website has just been launched that does just that for residents in Hull. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can find spending details in areas that most interest you. This makes the job of an armchair auditor much easier. Let me give you two practical examples. 

In April, I wrote about the demise of 'Hull in Print' - Hull City Council's newspaper. Using this website, in under a minute I found out that from March to August, taxpayers funded this newspaper by £45,048.

With a few clicks of a mouse, I found out that from 1 March - 31 August this year, the council made a total of 2014 payments totalling £1,197,927 in council tax computer refunds. Why this is, I don't know, but it's very easy for me to send a freedom of information request to find out. Without this website, it would have been much more difficult to spot this information, never mind collate all the figures.

The website has nothing to do with Hull City Council, although the council must be congratulated for publishing all spending online - not just spending above £500. It has been created by a member of the public called Adam Jennison. Adam is to be congratulated for doing this. It is a valuable tool for taxpayers who can easily find out how their money is spent. It is also useful for the council itself, as well as local businesses who may be able to spot an opening in the market and deliver services at a better rate.

As this program can be adapted for use across the country, all councils can be covered. If this was so, all of us would be in a better position to scrutinise them more effectively.

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